About Mary Whipple

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9th Seat is the brainchild of Mary Whipple, Olympic gold medalist coxswain of the US women’s eight. Here you’ll find informative blog posts, tips and tricks, and opportunities to learn from the best!

Weather: Preparing for the Worst, Planning for the Best


We just finished a training camp in Breisach, Germany and have now transitioned to Lucerne, Switzerland for the second World Rowing World Cup.  While in Breisach, we experienced a true spring with wild weather. A couple of months ago we’d opt for land training if the wind was too crazy, but now since the count down is getting closer to the Big Show there are fewer and fewer days where we let wind blow us off the water.  As my teammate, Meghan Musnicki put it the other day, “We have 10 Mondays left until we race in the Olympics!”


Last week we were practicing some higher stroke rates side by side with our two 4x’s.  During the first part of practice the wind was minimal. By halfway, rain started falling on us just enough to get everyone soaked.  After that rogue rain cloud cleared, Mother Nature thought it’d be cute to bring back the wind, this time with no mercy.  Building speed on our row back up the course to start our last half of practice, we didn’t really notice the strength of the wind until we had ports drag to help turn our boat to port. We were halfway done with spinning our boat and were perpendicular to the wind when we all got hit pretty hard with a gust.  At that point we all realized how bad it had gotten and that we were about to go into battle with our teammates and a major headwind. What a wild ride!


As I write this blog, it is exactly one month before our naming date, and we just arrived in Lucerne. This week conditions have been impressively unpredictable.  The beginning of the racecourse could be a puff of tailwind while the middle part could swirl around and be a slight headwind.  I’ve been racing in Lucerne since 2001 and have experienced pretty much anything and everything especially on race day.  Hail, wind, rain and sun could possibly happen in one practice. It’s practices like these, with the distraction and challenge of poor weather, that bring confidence on race day. Akin to practicing a presentation for work at home with dinner on the stove and your kids begging for your attention, or studying for an exam in a busy coffee shop, we train through poor conditions to change our weaknesses into strengths. Ask any rower, if they would allow conditions to stand in the way of their Olympic dream, the answer would be no.  We all train to make the least amount of mistakes on race day. Dealing with unpredictable water better than any other crew is every rower’s goal.  As we are under 65 days away from seeing what Mother Nature has in store for all the Olympians, something tells me everyone who makes it to the line of the Olympic final for the W8+ will have done their preparation to handle any conditions and will be ready to race as fast as possible.


As I look back at the past years of training for a chance at being a part of the ultimate test, a spot on the 2012 Olympic rowing team, I can’t help but appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from the weather and battling challenging conditions on and off the water. We’ve all done our fair share of cramming and last minute prepping and know how that usually ends without great success. In failing to practice in all conditions and prepare a proper strategy, you are rolling the dice and praying that you got your point across or you chose the correct answer. While this might work in the short term, prepping for a huge presentation or studying for your final exams takes months of work. Much like a final exam or a chance to land a game-changing contract at work, in the Olympics you only get one shot every four years.  I don’t know about you, I’m not going to leave it to luck or chance.  I firmly believe that you create your luck with hard work and preparation.  Each day we shove from the dock we take it as an opportunity to prepare for any kind of weather we may get dealt during the Olympics.  You have to make yourself practice the things that you are not good at and make your weaknesses into your strengths.  The right kind of preparation might just bring you the luck you wanted on your “race day” to make everything go your way.


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Posted at Saturday, May 26th, 2012 in: News

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